Aside from Batman on the GameBoy (and a few other gems), there haven't been many happy stories to tell when it comes to the DC creation and handheld devices. Most of the time,
It was easy to get away with too, because the console offerings were no better either. For every Batman Returns, there was Batman Forever. Again. That's no longer an excuse, though, given how the Arkham series of games have been received. Second-best no longer cuts it. It's this very reason why Armature Studio has a lofty bar to aim for, and why it's even more pleasing that it seems like they are.
Much has been made of Blackgate and how it ties into the franchise's ideals and systems, but it takes little less than a few moments with it to understand how it's all been put together. Keeping Batman locked to a 2D plane but allowing both his setting and foes to operate in 3D gives it a wonderful sense of scope, and is the opening necessary to bring across freeflow combat.
Operating exactly as it does on consoles - slow, well-timed button presses activating attacks, counters and dodging - it's as satisfying here as it has been previously, potentially made even more entertaining by its simple structure. You still have to find your own rhythm, and countering remains as intuitive as before, but having foes come at you from all angles as you remain somewhat restricted gives the mechanic an oddly nice twist.
Everything you'd imagine has made the jump across too, from grappling up platforms to detective mode. Naturally they've been scaled down to suit the format it's being presented on, but the fact it all works, and makes many of Arkham's features its own, just puts Blackgate in a position of sheer power.
The only real difference is the settings you'll find yourself in. For the purpose of its most recent showcase, Bats found himself in what I'd describe as an abandoned warehouse. While activities ranged from scurrying around to beating up thugs, the true joy was the 'Metroidvania-esque' nature of it. Levels aren't a point A to point B affair, having to be explored and backtracked to get where you ultimately need to go. A lot of this ties into the detective side of things, touching the screen to highlight abnormalities or exploits that the Dark Knight can use to his advantage. It's a touch slower than Origins, but it's all the better for it as it gives Blackgate its own identity.
Such exploration eventually culminates in a boss fight in a prison yard with Bronze Tiger. Organised by The Penguin, it resembles a cross between a side-scrolling beat-'em-up (which goes for the game on the whole, really) and a puzzler. Tiger's attacks have a pattern that needs to be worked out, often asking Batman to dodge before unleashing hell. Once again it's to the point, but it works. Whatever Blackgate throws at you, the sense of reward is always there.
Feeling very much like a souped up Batman Returns - which was excellent - but with far more bells and whistles to brag about, Blackgate will easily sit alongside Origins as a slice of gaming you ought to pick up, should you be sold on the character.